Whether your office climate is reminiscent of a warm, humid rainforest or the icy tundra, it’s undeniable that office temperature has a significant bearing on both your productivity and your overall comfort in the workplace.
The verdict has long been out concerning the optimal office temperature, and we here at PGi want to end the office temperature debate once and for all.
We reached out to our customers to see how temperature affects productivity in their respective workplaces, and one thing was readily apparent: improper temperatures in the office, whether too hot or too cold, drastically hinder workflow and force employees to find creative new methods to regulate their body temperature.
So, What Is the Ideal Office Temperature?
It has long been thought that cooler temperatures increase and encourage productivity, and, for a long time, the vast majority of scientific research corroborated this claim.
According to a study performed in 2006 by Helsinki University of Technology and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, “… performance increases with temperature up to 21-22 Celsius (69.8 to 71.6 degrees Fahrenheit). The highest productivity is at a temperature of around 22 Celsius (71.6 degrees Fahrenheit).”
Since the Helsinki study, however, other research has surfaced proving that the optimal temperature for office productivity is a surprisingly-balmy 77 degrees.
Warmer is Better
Over the course of a month-long office temperature study, researchers at Cornell University discovered that, when the temperature hovered around 77 degrees Fahrenheit, the workers being observed were keyboarding 100 percent of the time with a 10 percent error rate. When the temperature was cooled down to 68 degrees, the workers in question were only typing a paltry 54 percent of the time, with a significantly higher error rate of 25 percent.
Alan Hedge, a lead researcher in the Cornell temperature study, expressed surprise at the outcome of the experiment:
“We expected that when you cool people down, they work harder and better… We found the exact opposite. When it was cool to colder in the office, people did less work and made more mistakes.”
Though the results of the Cornell study might seem shocking, if you really think about it, the idea isn’t that far-fetched. As FastCompany pointed out in a 2012 article on office temperatures, the concept that a warmer environment aids efficiency is understandable. “When our body’s temperature drops, we expend energy keeping ourselves warm, making less energy available for concentration, inspiration, and insight.”
If you’ve ever worked in a frigid office climate, you already know that a warmer office is the best environment to house happy, efficient employees. And cold employees aren’t just uncomfortable, they are costly. In the Cornell study cited above, researchers demonstrated that the temperature-induced drop in employee performance “was costing employers 10% more per hour, per employee.”
Warm in Flesh, Warm in Spirit
A warm office is key to optimal employee performance, yes, but the benefits of a warm office go beyond the realm of productivity. A warm office environment can also play a crucial role in fostering warm interpersonal connections amongst colleagues.
The physical experience of bodily warmth is closely tied to feelings of trust and affection. The insular cortex — the part of the brain activated when we sense temperature — is the very same part of the brain activated when we experience feelings of trust and empathy towards another person. It seems to follow, then, that physically warm employees are also emotionally warm employees.
So if you’re looking to provide a work environment where your employees are simultaneously comfortable, productive, and interconnected, your solution is simple. Head over to the thermostat and set that temperature to your new office standard: between 71.6 and 77 degrees Fahrenheit.